Belgian brewery Moortgat, owner of the famous Duvel beer, is making great strides in China. Despite the higher price compared to the local beer, plenty of Chinese people are starting to choose Belgian beer more often, reflecting in an increased export.
Four times more expensive than local beer
A regular local beer usually costs 1.5 euro in most bars, while a glass of Vedett Extra White has a price tag four times the size (at 5.5 euro). That does not stop it from “selling like crazy”, according to Tim Verplancke. He is from Belgium and is the co-owner of O’Reilly’s Irish Pub, a distributor of Duvel-Moortgat’s entire array of products in the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan.
When it started operating in China (in 2007), Duvel-Moortgat exported just 200 hectolitres, but this year it will export hundreds of large containers. “Our goals for 2013 are to reach about half of our volumes in the United States. If we keep up this pace, we will surpass our British market in three to four years. “Moortgat has made China a priority market,” says general manager Vincent Smits.
Wheat beer successful
Most successful beer brands in China are wheat beer Vedett and also stronger beer La Chouffe and fruit beer Liefmans Fruitesse. “Wheat beer is mild in taste, not too bitter or too heavy. That is why it is the best beer to start for a lot of beer drinkers. Once they are familiar with this taste, they will try our other brands,” says Nick Papa, sales manager for North China.
Duvel-Moortgat realizes it has a very strong position at this point, especially because other Belgian brewers are not really focusing on the Chinese market. Duvel-Moortgat is however not planning on moving Duvel’s production. “If you brew it elsewhere, you can hardly call it Belgian and that is the entire sales pitch. Only a beer specifically targeted for the Chinese market, could be made in China,” concludes Papa.
(Translated by GP)